A Journey Through the Sandwiches—Grilled Cheese

So you take your Kraft single. Peel away the plastic shell and slap that square between two sides of soft white bread, and balance the whole construction atop Uncle Tony’s Ford 300 inline six, hot to the touch, currently running.

“Hey Tony,” you ask. “Is this gonna make the sandwich taste like motor oil?”

Uncle Tony’s unconcerned. “That truck ain’t had oil in it for the last four, five months. Flip it after ten minutes. Shut the hood, meantime. Watch for flies.”

Crazy Aunt Sarah, meanwhile, is over by the cooler, fretting, talking about did you butter both sides of the bread? I keep my butter on the kitchen counter—it’s the French way.

Ignore all that. Sink your attentions in your cell phone. The Met is looking up, it seems—you love Hellenistic kingdoms of the ancient world.

Ten minutes pass—pop that hood. Oh yeah, you’re making progress. Flip the sandwich over—it’s half-done. Starting to look a little gooey. Starting to see a little sear.

“Hey, Sarah—your sandwich is about half done.”

She sits up, about choking on a quaff of cold Corona Light. Way too enthusiastic. “Cool!!!”

Cheese is a little crispy on the edges. Sort of sticking. Maybe you should’ve Pam’d the engine. Whatever, shut the hood. Too late. Pass the time with conversation. “Hey, Aunt Sarah.”

“Yes, beloved?”

“Are you really going all around the nation, getting people to cook sandwiches for you? Is it for like a book or something?”

“It’s much more freeform and loose than that, but yeah. Generally, that’s true.”

“And then you eat the sandwiches.”

“Sometimes! I mean, I would like to.”

Uncle Tony’s on the porch now, howling. No reason in particular—years of enthusiastic drug abuse will do this to you. It’s just something that he does. He appears to be in the process of adopting another stray dog.

You lift the hood and poke the sandwich a little as it’s toasting up. Smoke wells up into your nostrils, not unpleasant. “So it’s sort of like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives?”

“No, just sandwiches.”

“You’re the Anthony Bourdain of sandwiches.”

“Who?”

When you take the sandwich off the engine, your largest worry is consistency. Some grilling methods don’t disperse heat evenly. “Watch out,” you say. “There might be hot spots.”

You slide it on a paper plate, and to be honest with you, it smells pretty good. It’s sort of hard to fuck this up. You leave the engine running, because it’s powering the radio, and the song is good. It’s not your favorite song, but it’s good for a day like this—lazy, humid, grilling.

“You’re good,” you say. “Dig in.”

“Thanks!” She takes a bite. The cheese trails off her mouth in a melted tendril.  “Hey, you ever made a grilled cheese with, say, caved-age Gruyère? I’m a journalist, you know. Very curious.”

The slam of the hood closing mutes out your first “nope”, so you say it again, with emphasis. With more passion than intended. You roll your eyes, perhaps. “Nope.” Not at all. And then you keep repeating it. “Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.” Walking away from her, back up toward the trailer, shaking your head side to side—now you can’t stop mumbling it. “Nope, nope, nope nope nope, hell no, hell nope, no sir, no ma’am, no.”

And you keep on walking, past the trailer, out to pasture, leaving Uncle Tony with the sandwich woman, Sandwich Bourdain, whom when you met gave you a business card, unprompted, which read “Crazy Aunt Sarah”—beneath it, “OG Oddball of the West.” You walk in circuit for an hour. When you return, the sandwich girl is gone. Uncle Tony is asleep, and the truck is nowhere to be found.